When Two Tingles Intermingle (1.03.10)
Poised between two forms of nothingness, the nihil by way of eminence that is God, and the nihil that marks the defect of creatures, Eckhart's mystical way will be an invitation to the soul to give up the nothingness of the created self in order to become the divine Nothing that is also all things. --Bernard McGinn
Continuing with yesterday's post, Bolton concludes that "dualism would appear to be an intellectual image of the cosmic order." I would prefer a term such as "generative complementarity," which is to be distinguished from a static dualism by virtue of the fact that the former is capable of evolving into the "higher third," thus converting existence from the closed circle to the open spiral, or.... what's the word, Jeeves? Yes, an asymptotic gyre.
In most cases, we can see that a stubborn dualism that we'd like to get rid of is a complementarity that we need to work with. Of course, that is not always the case, for one side of a duality can be a negation, rather than complement, of the other; for example, leftism is the negation of classical liberalism, not its complement, much less any kind of "progressive" integration. Similarly, feminism ends up creating masculinized women and feminized men, and is the death of the dynamic tension that.... that.... Let's just let Frank describe it:
How little we know / how much to discover / what chemical forces flow / from lover to lover / How little we understand / what touches of that tingle / that sudden explosion / when two tingles intermingle
Indeed. That is an example of complementarity. But we all know that relationships can descend into the static dualism, or "drama," that many people confuse with generativity:
The broken dates, the endless waits / the lovely loving and the hateful hates / the conversation with the flying plates / I wish I were in love again / Believe me sir, I much prefer / the classic battle of a him and her / I don't like quiet and I wish I were / in love again
Yes, who among us hasn't had the conversation with the flying plates? Isn't that why the trolls come here? They're not here to con-verse, which means to "flow together." Rather, they are here to stir up contro-versy, which means to "flow against" in their characteristic unDude manner. Our most recent anonymous troll couldn't stop throwing around the plate in his head.
The possibility of knowledge hinges on the dualism of phenomena and noumenon. To "know" means to shorten the distance, or close the gap, between appearances and reality. (As we shall see later, the reverse is true for "spiritual progress," in that the closer one draws to God, the more one appreciates the distance.) It seems that Truth bifurcates into these two realms, which it must do on pain of having no creation at all. Paradoxically -- but not really -- you could say that existence itself is the first "fall," since it is a descent from the Principle. But don't sweat it. Eternity is still in love with the productions of time.
Obviously, it is impossible for us to imagine what the cosmos looks like "with no one there." The possibility of knowledge presupposes not just a knower, but a particular point of view, a "separation of the subjective and objective components of perception" (Bolton).
But this split is not a pernicious one, nor can science ever heal it. Rather, I agree with Polanyi that the separation of subject and object creates a generative transitional space in which our understanding may evolve into deeper and more comprehensive syntheses of reality. Thus, the practice of science can be seen as a kind of shadow of infinite truth, except that, unlike mysticism, it can never reach the goal.
Still, as Bolton says, dualism "enables us to go abroad while staying at home. All that is 'out there' is at the same time 'in here,'" meaning that science is simultaneously a deepening of the objective and subjective horizons -- so long as one doesn't regard the external world in the naive manner of the bonehead materialist or reductionistic Darwinian. As we always say, consciousness reveals more about Darwinism than Darwinism will ever reveal about consciousness. If you remember this, you can accept any findings of Darwinism without being caught in its pneumacognitive nets.
Bolton agrees that representation "commits us to the idea of a Representer, and this is what is normally identified with the soul." Furthermore -- and this is a key point -- "for the soul, the body and the whole physical world which the body belongs to, appear as content. While the body is essentially something contained, the soul is essentially a container of phenomena." As such, the "complete I" includes "the world-containing and world-representing soul," and "the world, as it appears from one's own unique point of view, is in a real sense a part of one's identity" (emphasis mine).
This makes perfect sense to me, because we all know how dramatically different the world appears when we are depressed, or in love, or an atheist. Each of these conditions allows one to "see" realities that might otherwise be foreclosed. For example, I do not deny that atheism discloses something about reality, just as does depression. If nothing else, they teach us that we always transcend the content of experience, for when we return to normal, we see that we had been living with blinders on, which is another way of being dead.
One thing we must be aware of is the ubiquitous societal pressure to see and experience the world in materialistic terms, which is to die to God for the sake of the world, rather than vice versa. Balthasar:
"[N]aked matter remains an indigestible symbol of fear and anguish. Since nothing else remains, and yet something must be embraced, twentieth-century man is urged to enter this impossible marriage with matter, a union which finally spoils man's taste for love. But man cannot bear to live with the object of his impotence, that which remains permanently unmastered. He must either deny it or conceal it in the silence of death."
God gives himself to man as far as that is possible, and it is only possible to the extent that the individual being is a world-containing entity with endless extension described above.... In short, there must be some common measure between the recipient and the received. When the human state is seen in this light, it will not be difficult to proceed to the idea of man as God's mediator in the world. --Robert Bolton, Self and Spirit
Then again, as Saint Teresa of Ávila might have said of the Groom, So long as you kiss me / and the world around us shatters / How little it matters / how little we know.